Starring: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, and Ti West
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Studio: HanWay Films
Runtime: 95 minutes
I had been hearing about this film for quite some time. Having made its run of the festival circuits in 2011 to a pretty good response I was surprised to see it take close to two years to get it’s theatrical release. Though with Wingard and Barrett’s involvement with the well received horror anthology V/H/S/, it seemed that the film was actually gaining momentum in the time before it’s release. Unfortunately I never got a chance to see the film before it left theaters but did manage to check it out while it was on demand prior to it’s Blu-Ray/DVD release. I’m glad I did, but not necessarily for the reasons I expected.
You’re Next is the latest entry into the Home Invasion sub-genre following the footsteps of recent films such as The Strangers, Funny Games, and even the Mother’s Day remake. It’s story is about a family that gets together for the 35 anniversary of their wealthy parents at a vacation home. As the evening progresses they all sit down for a big dinner celebration only for it to be interrupted as masked men outside of the house begin attacking the family. From there it’s simply the members of the immediate family and their spouses and/or boyfriends/girlfriends trying to stick together and survive as they are seemingly picked off one by one. The wrench in the plans of the bad guys so to speak, comes in the form of one of the dinner guests who happens to be a tad bit better at survival then your average Joe. If you’ve seen even one preview for the film, the identity of that person is pretty obvious. In fact that seemed to become the center of the marketing campaign after the film’s release.
While basic I don’t have nothing against the main premise of the film. It’s an easy enough concept to grasp and one that doesn’t ask us to suspend reality too much in order to invest in it. Where things start to get muddy for me are the overall execution. To put it mildly I simply don’t feel that this film was written well at all. Whether it’s terrible dialect between the characters (a laughably bad line about having sex next to a dead body comes to mind) or just in general the complete inability to follow it’s story, the film just starts to fall apart fast.
For starters in a horror film it’s important to care about the characters so you feel for the pain and suffering they are going through. Unfortunately most of the characters in this film are presented to you so poorly that they don’t come off very likable in the first place. I’m not saying they are bad too the point that they deserve to die, but they definitely aren’t the type of characters you’d be rooting for within the realm of a film. I’d dare say that only one character in the whole film is presented in such a way that you like. Everyone else either comes off either like a jerk or so little is presented you are mostly indifferent to them, since they are more or less just a random set piece.
It’s not just character development though in which the film drops the ball for me, it’s basic story that the film also fails to get 100% right. One of my biggest pet peeves is I shouldn’t be able to easily detect major story flubs when watching a film. I understand that movie mistakes happen and sometimes certain things are lost in the editing process, but it’s still up to the film’s creators to make sure that the main elements of the film still make sense. Unfortunately for one of the primary characters that just doesn’t ring true. There is a specific character that the camera goes out of its way to show that they either broke or severely sprained their ankle, adding a complicated layer to their survival. There is even a set of dialog between two characters talking about how will have to carry this character because they can’t walk on their own. Makes perfect sense, except that maybe 10 minutes later in the film the character is walking around fine going room to room on their own. May seem trivial to some but it’s just one of many ways that the film showed it’s flaws.
Another such instance is the lack of complete logic by the characters. As a long time fan of horror I fully understand the concept of horror characters not acting logically. Usually you can tell yourself, well in the heat of the moment people react differently. While we the audience can yell at the person for running upstairs making it harder to escape, to them they are simply running in the opposite direction from whoever means to do them harm. One of the big scenes involves the discovery of a key character dead in the upstairs portion of the house. This is key because up until this moment there was no reason to believe anybody was in the house, and as far as they knew their attackers were outside of the house. My problem comes from their reaction; they all simply go back downstairs and sit in the room they were in. Despite the fact that they now know that somebody is in the house, they choose to remain idle downstairs. Funny thing is the character that does actually try and use logic and go upstairs and try to find the person whom is in the house is the same character whom we are told can’t walk.
I also couldn’t help feeling that the way things were explained to us were all just too convenient at times. For instance the way they explained the hero being able to do the things they do so well just seemed like a huge cop out. Not saying it’s impossible but it’s like one of those news stories in which you read about guys trying to rob a store only to find out the owner of the story is a former MMA champion. It’s feasible but when writing a story it seems like a bad writing device. It’s like playing games when you were a kid and being like “I shot you you’re dead” only for the other kid to reply “I’m wearing a bullet proof vest”. Would have seemed less cheap if they just had the character have really good survival instincts when their back is against the wall. Instead they ironically made the plot seem more unrealistic by adding what they thought was a plausible reasoning behind this person’s skills.
Even the layer of adding the reason behind the whole ordeal just made things more cheap feeling. To me it is way scarier if they had no reason. It would add to the “this can happen to you” feel of films that are meant to be more realistic. Instead we get a very obvious explanation for why this is all happening in the first place. Even worse is that when you know their background you understand that there is no feasible way that these people would have had so much trouble. Instead they spend the final act coming off as if they are the horror versions of “The Wet Bandits”. At any given time it would have been more than appropriate for our hero to say “do you give up, or are you thirsty for more?”
The Final Say
I wanted to not just like this movie, I wanted to love it. Instead when it was all over I struggled to even tell myself it was an average film. There were so many times that I honestly couldn’t tell if the film was intentionally parodying itself or if it was just bad. Unfortunately for me it was the latter. Even after streaming this on my PS4 for free using some PS cash I got back at launch I still felt ripped off. While I may have had my money in tact, the same couldn’t be said about my time. I don’t know if I’ve ever disagreed so strongly with the horror community on a film, but this certainly isn’t something worth your time. It’s a definite film you should Pass on. Instead watch Funny Games, it’s better than this film in every conceivable way.